Song of the Misery Index

by Morgan Dowdy 


we shouldn’t be here but we are
precisely here
in this groove of the rock
at the electrifi
ed edge of the yard
chewing gum and shutting down

Dead canaries litter the park
Feathers all bloody and black
Death in the vacant lot
                 (Mamma don’t look)
Let the weather do the work

The smart balloon says it’s time
Mamma we don’t have much time
It is measured it is known
Mamma the sky will be falling

breakfast come at last
accept it with a jagged laugh

sink in flames
locusts in the pantry

breaking bread before the fast

uranium in the oven
faces in the oven
bricks in the window
pills in the socket

salting your head wound

making hay

Mamma scrape
all that dung
off my tongue
our song is better
left unsung

The city opens its legs to the river
Rolls over and graces the river
Barges slide up the puckered river
Postcards curl in display baskets

The rent is due the wage delayed
Mamma don’t look so mistreated
Better not to count your copper
Better leave it to the experts

one lobe pleads with another

tighten the screws
in your neck

stymied heart wreathed in plaque

dry your eyes
with a crumpled paycheck

one beat follows the next one through

who Mamma who
decides what it is
to mean and to do

The protest has been gassed
Police bullets have cleared the road
Cold as a sequence of keystrokes
The hangman’s coming home

Our number will go uncounted
We will be minor and barely alive
Mamma pass around the cigarettes
Dear neighbor pace with us

capsizing on the sidewalk

wrinkled orphans for sale!

retching into the petunias

sharpshooters for sale!

stretching tight American faces

flags for sale!
protein for sale!

Mamma I could eat
my belly is a cat in heat

“Rise brothers sunward to freedom
Up sisters up to the light
Out of the dark past behind us
March toward the future bright”

Mamma throw down your shovel
Burn down your mortgaged hovel
Big police will soon be upon us
To gas and fry and hang us high

yes sir I do
got it made in America
no sir I don’t
make plans or ask questions
yes sir I am
glad to have the market do it for me
no sir I won’t be
part of any resistance
I got steady employment
my hobbies include wages and good posture
clean clothes and plain English
I dream in algorithm
wholesome words and traditional rhythm
infrared and crosshair vision
and if my handshake is empty
and if my stomach sounds clammy
sir it’s only in the awesome presence
of your invaluable service
against the children
of working people—

run Mamma run!
this one’s reaching for his gun!

Neighbor found naked in a cell
Sits in a greasy puddle of water
Opens her throat spits quivers frowns
“Black is the sum of all images”

Mamma why not strike a match
Here in the belly of Leviathan
Here in the womb of no future
Why not endure all night forever

at the end of

(alone with)

the world

think Mamma!
act Mamma!


Morgan Dowdy is a worker, labor organizer, and writer living in New Orleans. His poems have been featured at Prelude, Paintbucket, and other places. For advice about how to form a union with your coworkers, reach out to him on Twitter @proleific.

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